Anyone looking at rules of golf can be quite overwhelmed at first, as they can be seen as complicated and strict. However if this is the case for you, in this beginners guide to the rules of golf, we will explain everything to help you play the game correctly!
Obviously the main focus of the game is to get a golf ball in the cup in the fewest strokes possible. Yet, of course there are many rules in between which make for a fair and exciting sport.
So let’s get into it and I hope you enjoy reading this ultimate guide to the rules of golf!
#1 General Rules of Play
In this first part we will focus in on the general rules of play. Here are the key rules to note:
- The player to tee of first is usually determined by picking a player at random.
- After teeing off, the ball furthest from the hole is played first, even if they are still furthest away after several shots they continue.
- The player to tee off next is always the previous hole’s winner.
- If you’re unhappy with a way a player acted during their shot, you can ask them to retake it.
- When playing by stroke play rules, the lowest scoring player always tees off first and if shots are played out of turn then no penalty is given.
- 4 ball is different as players can decide to play in any order.
#2 The Main Stroke & Match Play Rules
- All players should mark their golf balls for easier identification. Golf balls are lost if they are not identified.
- If somehow a golf ball becomes damaged, it can be replaced without penalty.
- A key one to always check, players can only carry a maximum of fourteen clubs at anytime in their golf bag.
- In a golf round, practise swings are allowed, but practise shots are forbidden.
- I like this one, if you’re between holes, you may practise your short game when waiting.
- Players may only speak with their caddy or partner for advice for their round.
- An important one to remember, when in hazards such as bunkers, no practice swings are allowed, as you could disturb the sand.
- Electronic aids such as rangefinders are not allowed.
#3 Rules For The Tee Box
- When setting up to tee off, players must do so within two club lengths of the tee markers.
It’s always worth double checking you tee off in the correct place, as a two shot penalty is given in stroke play should you tee off outside the tee area and you will then have to tee off from the proper location again!
#4 Ball Play Rules
- Unless you’re otherwise permitted to do so, never touch your ball and play your shot from where it lies.
- At no point in your round are you allowed to change the golf course, for example, improving your lie by pushing down grass, or removing obstacles such as branches.
- If by mistake you play the wrong golf ball, you will then incur a two stroke penalty. Afterwards the player must play the correct ball again.
- As mentioned previously, playing balls from a bunker or water hazard, players cannot touch their clubs to the ground before playing the shot.
- An obvious one, if somehow your club strikes the ball several times in one swing, then those will be counted as extra shots. It’s best to never push or scrap at the ball.
#5 Important Green Rules
- Players cannot touch the green in anyway, especially when in the line of another players ball or your own.
- When approaching the green, any ball holes or pitch marks in your green may be fixed, however you cannot fix spike marks left by players.
- If your ball hits the flagstick when putting, you will automatically lose the hole in match play. For stroke play, players receive a penalty of two strokes.
- This is very important, you cannot test your putting line by rolling a golf ball along it.
- Balls are allowed to be cleaned when on the green, however always use a marker to replace the ball exactly where it was removed.
- Gimme’s are allowed but players must putt their balls into the hole if the oppenent decides it’s not close enough.
#6 Ball Placement, Drop and Maneuvering Rules
- When addressing your ball, if it moves by itself or by accident, unfortunately you will then incur a penalty stroke. Players must then move the ball back to it’s original position before the infraction.
- You must mark your ball when you lift to prevent misplacing the spot where it left when you return the golf ball.
- If another player accidently moves your ball, then you can move back without infraction.
- When dropping a ball, it cannot come into contact with any other player or caddie, otherwise it will have to be re-dropped.
- A ball drop should always be done at arms length and shoulder height.
- Of course when in a hazard, the player’s dropped ball must remain inside the hazard.
- All dropped balls cannot move any closer to the pin from the original position.
- When dropping a ball, if it rolls again into another hazard or behind an obstacle, players are allowed to re-drop the ball once again.
- Players can lift their ball to assist other players if it’s in their line and vice versa.
#7 Removing Loose Impediments
- Natural objects such as leaves, mud, stones etc, which are not fixed to the ground may be moved unless they lie in a hazard.
- You may only remove loose impediment within one club length of your golf ball, if the ball moves you will be given a penalty. On the putting green this rule doesn’t apply.
#8 Deflected & Stopped Ball Rules
- In any case, if you come in contact with a golf ball in motion and accidently deflect or stop the ball, unfortunately players lose the hole and incur a two stroke penalty in regular stroke play.
- If in such an occurrence your ball hits another opponent you can choose to replay the shot or play from where it lies.
- Without penalty, you can replay a shot if your ball is stopped or deflected by another person from where it lies, however in putting, the stoke must be replayed.
#9 Unusual Course Conditions
- If a players ball lies falls on the ground in an area of repair by the course managers, then a drop ball is allowed within a club length, or no nearer to the hole without penalty.
- When encountering an animal burrow where your ball has landed, then you may take a drop ball again within one club length or no nearer the hole without penalty.
- Lost golf balls because of adverse ground conditions, players are allowed to take a relief shot no nearer the hole and without penalty.
#10 Obstruction Rules
- Objects put there by man are an obstruction. Nevertheless, obviously obstructions located in the ‘out-of-bounds’ areas on the golf course are not obstructions, and nor are out-of-bounds markers.
- If the obstruction is moveable, then it may be moved before taking your shot. If the ball moves because of this obstruction, then fortunately no penalty is given.
- Lost balls because of immovable obstructions may be replaced at the nearest point, however this is not the case for water hazards.
- If immovable obstructions interfere with the players stroke play, you may take a drop within one club length, but without moving any closer to the hole.
#11 Water Hazard Rules
- When in a dreaded water hazard, players have the option to either take a drop shot behind the water hazard or play the shot as it lies if in shallow water. Players can also choose to retake the shot if they prefer.
- An unusual rule not often used, If somehow a player lands their ball in a lateral water hazard, players must drop the ball two club lengths from the point where the ball last crossed the line of the hazard, or the point on the opposite point of the hazard at the same distance from the hole. In this case a stroke penalty is given.
Hopefully you found reading the rules of golf interesting and not a bore! Although there are many rules and they can be a little confusing, this ensures everyone has a fair round and can enjoy the game we love!
Let us know if we’ve missed anything by leaving a comment below. Take care and enjoy your next round of golf!